It’s a new month so there’s a new theme here at Buon Viaggio. For the next four weeks, we’ll explore a question that I ponder regularly: got options?

Of course, it’s a bit of a trick question since options aren’t something we get; options are more often something that we recognize.

It’s a lesson I learned long ago.

At a particularly difficult time in my life, I was sharing my frustration with a friend. She listened attentively to my story and then quietly said, “Barbara, you always have options.”

I was too miserable to grasp what she said in that  moment of my despair. Later, as I was making decisions, changing directions, and setting new goals, I’d remember those wise words and get busy exploring the options available to me.

It’s a practice that has served me well—and I’m not alone in that discovery.

Several months ago, CBS Sunday Morning did a piece about comedian/actor Chris Rock who was appearing in a Broadway play that was about to open. The interviewer commented on the diversity of Rock’s career and his financial success as a performer.

Rock sat up a little straighter and said, “Being rich is not about having lots of money. Being rich is about having lots of options.”

By that definition, which I believe is totally accurate, the world is full of rich people who have no idea. As writer Brenda Uleland said in her marvelous If You Want to Write, “It seems to me like this: if you have a million dollars in the bank and you don’t know it’s there, it doesn’t do you any good.”

Seems to me like this, if you have unlimited options and don’t know it, it doesn’t do you any good.

So this month, we’ll look at practical ways to uncover all that buried treasure. It may take a bit of digging, but I predict you’re going to love what you discover.

In the meantime, consider this bit of advice from Mike Dooley: “Both having money and not having money make fantastic adventures possible that would not otherwise be possible. Same for having, and not having, anything else.”

Opens the options window wider, doesn’t it?



Yesterday afternoon I spent a fair amount of time replying to an e-mail from a man who wrote to tell me that he was tired of his corporate job and wanted to become self-employed. So far, so good.

Then he went on to give me all the reasons why this was impossible. He had a large family to support, he was too exhausted when he got home from work to get something going, etc. etc. There wasn’t anything very original about his list.

I wrote back and said, “Just from what you told me, I think you may be getting ahead of yourself. Of course, it seems overwhelming to make a life transition when you’re already booked and committed.

“Do you have a clear idea about what sort of business you’d like to start? Can you find even 30 minutes a day to start laying the groundwork? Have you got written goals? Can you get family support for making a lifestyle change? Seems to me, your next step is to plan your transition…not decide it can’t be done.”

What I wanted to tell him, but didn’t, was that he called to mind Richard Bach’s observation: “Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they’re yours.”

I had barely hit the send button on my message when my phone rang. The call was from Paul, a man I’d met several years ago when he attended my seminars in San Francisco.

At the time, Paul was working at a government job, not so happily married, and longing to travel. I remember how somber and sad he seemed.

When I heard from him next, he had quit his job, left his bad marriage and was focusing on making his living from travel.

It was fun to watch as Paul began building his business teaching various travel seminars he’d created. At first, he focused on teaching in his home state of California. The next year he went national and was zipping around the country sharing information on living abroad and getting the most out of traveling like a local.

When Paul’s parents became ill, he suspended his travel activities to care for them. In the past year, both his mother and father had died and Paul is planning his next chapter.

He told me about his immediate plans to study French in Montreal and spend time on a Semester at Sea.  As he was sharing his excitement about his new adventures, I kept thinking about my e-mail correspondent who felt so trapped.

Cynics would point out that Paul does not have the same obligations as the other fellow so, obviously, he can gallivant around. Cynics would be missing the point.

In our long catch-up chat, Paul told me that he really didn’t have any long-term plans. He was focusing on his upcoming travels. “I’m not worried. Having the experience of starting my business gave me so much confidence,” he said, “that I know I can do it again.”

It’s an observation I’ve heard over and over again from my self-employed friends. Why then, I wonder, is Paul’s discovery such a well-kept secret? And why do so many people treat self-employment like a spectator sport?

Maybe the answer to those perplexing questions can be found in these words from an anonymous source: A willing heart will find a thousand ways. An unwilling heart will find a thousand excuses.

Or perhaps Paul has discovered what Chris Rock pointed out in an interview last week on CBS Sunday Morning. “Being rich is not about having a lot of money,” Rock said. “Being rich is about having a lot of options.”